Life has very little meaning without relationships.
If everyone operated with the same level of urgency in their work as they do searching for a partner once they hit 30, our economy would surge beyond capacity.
Looking back, I realized I was playing with fire as I ventured through adulthood. Many people, and the connections we built together were taken for granted.
Caught up in the hypnosis of serving my own needs, I allowed many of my relationships to suffer and die off.
I’m not saying romantic relationships are the key to happiness, as many other types of relationships can reign supreme. However, if you do find yourself with a significant other at the moment, do them a favor and screen yourself for these affinity-killing hangups.
Here are some of the key takeaways that, in hindsight, are now more in front of me than ever before.
“Each contact with a human is so rare, so precious, one should preserve it.” — Anais Nin
1. Question Behavior, Not Intent
If you decide to trust yourself in your ability to choose your relationships appropriately, you should know in your gut that your partner only has positive intent towards you.
Depending on the state they’re in, they may exhibit a behavior and you may begin to feel otherwise. Understanding the difference between the cause and the effect, however, will set you free.
Behavior and intent are not always congruent. What shows up may look mean and nasty but beneath it, they’re really just scared. Or it may look vain and selfish, but they’re really just a little freaked out. They know their intent and have a strong belief in it, regardless of what it looks like in their sequential behavior. Attempting to tear that down is a great way to sever trust.
You have every right to question the behavior. Question the intent, however, and be prepared for the relationship to be destroyed.
2. Stop Trying To Protect Yourself
Victim mode isn’t a very powerful way to operate. The ongoing rhetoric in today’s dating world sets a precedent for people to enter into a relationship with Fort Knox guarding their soul.
I understand, especially when it comes to women, we cannot open the floodgates right away—today’s pick-up culture and patriarchy have proven this. But some men are just as closed off. And what I’m recommending is be careful of creating this generalization.
When we’re guarding something, we’re assuming the attempt of external harm. So we’re immediately beginning a relationship looking for what could be a threat, instead of what could be welcomed and appreciated. What’s worse is we’re doing a massive disservice to the other person by withholding our true self. You cannot try to protect yourself and be authentic at the same time. Where the focus goes, the energy flows.
Authenticity is vulnerability. Vulnerability is defined as, “the quality or state of being exposed or attacked.” Lasting relationships are built on trust. Want to build real trust and demonstrate your belief in someone? Give them the power to destroy you by exposing who you really are.
3. Jealousy Comes From Unrealized Areas of Self
Jealousy is a common theme that arises in many relationships and I can certainly speak first-hand on this topic. What I did not understand at the moment was where it was coming from.
Jealousy ensued when my partner would experience something I knew I had the ability to create for myself but didn’t. Jealousy was the reminder of all I had left unfulfilled. Often times, the differences that make us fall in love with other people are actually what we want the most for ourselves.
4. Give Up What Doesn’t Serve You And Give In To What Does
In the beginning of a relationship, the objective is to do whatever it takes to make the other person becomes yours. We go to extreme lengths of selflessness to be able to leverage the terms “girlfriend”, “boyfriend”, “fiancee”, “husband” and “wife”.
Then what happens? We’re successful and we assume it’s all about us now. We get obsessed with having every little facet exactly how we want it, instead of recognizing that the source of our happiness is actually stepping outside of that selfishness and committing to something bigger than ourselves—in this case, the relationship.
Give up being right. Let go of the validations. Resist the need for validation. Stick to the value that got you the relationship in the first place and own it: your lover comes first.
5. Your Friends Aren’t Your Therapist
Your friends love you. They really do. They don’t want to see you get hurt just as much as you want to avoid it. Hence—unless you’ve got some incredibly objective thinkers as friends—it’s rarely a wise idea to turn to them for relationship advice.
Apart from having a blurred context, most of your friends possess far too much emotional bias to really help you manage conflict. Moreover, there’s your tendency to highlight the negative in conversation, if for no other reason than relatedness. You’re conscious they may not want to hear you brag about your relationship—especially if they’re not in one—so talking about what’s wrong brings you closer to them, which skews their view.
Your friends don’t want you to experience pain and some of that pain is in taking responsibility. So much of the conversations are centered around statements that let you off the hook.
6. Ditch Your Expectations
Despite all the similarities between business and dating, leave the expectations to be had with the employees on their first day of orientation. Any pain or suffering you experience in a relationship can be categorized by an expectation of yours not being met.
These expectations handcuff us from being able to truly be fulfilled with another person because they often dictate best-case scenario. If you want to feel like something’s perpetually missing in your relationship, assume that your partner is going to be perfect 100% of the time. With this constant comparison between reality and what you deem good enough, there’s a pretty high likelihood you’re going to be left feeling powerless.
Moreover, our expectations shift the focus from the relationship as a whole to us as individuals. If you want everything to be about you and the way you think things you should occur, be alone. Save everyone the headache and live in that fantasy by yourself. Your partner certainly didn’t sign up for it.
7. Original Lenses Only
If you hop on social media, especially the picture-heavy applications, you’ll find the majority of the content is primarily acquired through filters. As it happens, we also utilize these filters in our relationships as well.
Unfortunately, these filters don’t color and shape things for the better. They filter our view of our partner through the notable instances from our past. Knowledge without emotion is forgotten. When emotion is attached, however, it shows up like yesterday. Do positive experiences show up? Sure. Think the negative ones show up a little more prominently? Absolutely.
Ever notice how one small misstep can unravel a laundry list of instances in which the partner’s current behavior isn’t even related to? That’s the filter showing up in full effect. That’s the record of wrongs shaping how we look at our partner. That’s us ignoring the fact that our partner is an ever-evolving human being, unable to change the past but merely learn and grow from it. They aren’t perfect, and neither are we.
There’s no soapbox here, for I have repeatedly made each of these mistakes on numerous occasions in the past. Some of the lessons may need calibration from male to female but as human beings, we all have similar needs to be met. Use these takeaways as a mirror, putting pride aside, and watch as the fulfillment level of your relationship skyrocket to new heights.